I distinctly remember the day I fell in love with alternative music. It was the middle of 2020, and like most of the world, I had absolutely nothing to do. I was tired, bored, and mindlessly watching YouTube videos. That was when I stumbled across some acoustic videos from Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman. It might sound dramatic to say that night changed my life, but it did. I finally found a band I loved and a genre I quickly became obsessed with. I began with those acoustic videos, but they led me to the song “Native Tongue” and the rest of Switchfoot’s discography.
Before discovering the band, I listened to much contemporary Christian music (CCM). It’s a beautiful genre filled with talented musicians, but I quickly tired of its repetitive nature. Many CCM songs I listened to maintained similar themes and lyrics, whereas alternative rock offered a new sonic and lyrical journey. It was like I was awakening for the first time to what music can be.
My mind thinks in poetry. I make sense of the world around me through poetic words. Many CCM songs are written with black-and-white principles, but alternative music tends to go much deeper. Most times, you have to process the song before you fully grasp its meaning. And that is why I love this genre so much.
Lately, we have seen a comeback in alternative music. Several new groups are rising to bring the gift of alternative music to a new generation. It could be a coincidence that so many alternative bands have come to the music scene, or the Christian music industry could be stepping into a new era. I tend to believe the latter. Today, we look at a few bands and artists making waves in the alternative rock genre.
When it comes to alternative music, it’s impossible not to mention Colony House.
The duo released their debut album, When I Was Younger, in 2014, and since, they have become one of the biggest names in alternative rock. With an edgy surf rock sound, their genre is self-described as “landlocked surf rock.”
While I was already familiar with Colony House’s music, it wasn’t until their album, The Cannonballers, that I started listening to their songs regularly. I listened to The Cannonballers for weeks and still frequently return to “Would Ya Could Ya” and “One of Those Days”. Their songs are a wonderful blend between alternative and rock, and fans can’t get enough.
Colony House has succeeded in both the mainstream and Christian music industries. While the group isn’t a Christian band, two of its members are the sons of CCM artist Steven Curtis Chapman. Although Caleb and Will’s rock sound differs from their dad’s contemporary voice, they’ve blurred genre lines and brought their songs to their father’s audience. In May, Colony House made its Grand Ole Opry debut, and Caleb and Will’s dad was there beside them, co-headlining the event.
The Grand Ole Opry show brought rock fans and Christian music lovers together through hope. Whether you listen to Steven Curtis Chapman, Colony House, or both, hope is the theme in all their songs. Although people try to put up walls and divide the “sacred and the secular,” hope is the anthem that will unite us. In the words of author A.W. Tozer, “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular; it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart, and he can do no common act.”
Indie alt-rock is a lesser-known genre. And one band that categorizes it perfectly is Common Noble. They burst onto the music scene in 2020 with their debut single, “Other Side.” And since then, they’ve released songs like “Troubles,” “Heart Explodes,” and my personal favorite: a cover of Coldplay’s song, “Yellow.” More recently, they released their debut EP, Sticks & Stones.
Independent rock groups release songs frequently, but not all songs carry quality. However, Common Noble has put a lot of intention into their music, resulting in high-quality music. In a world where anyone can release music at the drop of a hat, it’s encouraging to see a group like Common Noble releasing thought-provoking and well-produced songs.
While most of Common Noble’s songs are very alt-rock-driven, the group still conveys themes of faith. They cleverly and poetically share the message of hope in the same way bands like Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE do. Although these guys are new to alternative music, I’m confident they’re going places. They’ve already caught the attention of fans and music representatives, resulting in features on several Apple Music curated playlists.
This is only the beginning of Common Noble and perhaps only the beginning of alternative rock music. There needs to be a telling of what the next few years could bring for them and this genre that is suddenly on the rise.
Gable Price And Friends
Popular alt-rock act Gable Price And Friends has quickly become one of my all-time favorite bands. If I could choose only two bands to listen to for the rest of my life, I would pick these guys and Switchfoot. When I heard Fractioned Heart in early 2022, I knew there was something special about Gable Price And Friends.
After they dropped Fractioned Heart, the band re-released their EP, If I’m Being Honest, in July 2022. Following the EP, Gable Price And Friends released their highly anticipated full-length record, The Consequence of Being Alive. And that’s when my obsession peaked–not because they’re releasing incredible music, but because of their hope-filled songs. Time and again, their music has met me right where I am.
As mentioned, I can often relate to alternative music more than CCM. While I love both styles, there’s a rawness in alt-rock that can be hard to find in contemporary genres. And that’s why alternative music is once again on the rise; people are looking for honesty and hope. That’s why I find solace in Gable Price And Friends’ music.
With songs about God, anti-depressants, and strained relationships, there’s a vulnerability to their music that I haven’t found anywhere else. And beyond their honest lyrics, these guys are creating good songs. The kind of songs that make you want to head-bang, sing, and dance along with all at once.
The band has been selling out shows across the United States, and I can’t wait to see where they’ll take this. (Check out our interview with Gable Price here.)
Mike Mains and The Branches
Ironically, I heard about the alt-rock band Mike Mains and The Branches from Gable Price & Friends. Gable played guitar for The Branches founder Mike Mains in 2019, and the two previously worked together when they rerecorded Gable Price & Friends’ song “Demons.”
Mike Mains and The Branches offers a beautiful blend of soft rock, pop, and alternative, reminiscent of bands like COIN, Owl City, and Gable Price & Friends. Listening to their music blew me away and gave me renewed hope for alternative music. It was surprising to discover yet another band playing my favorite style of music.
Mike Mains released When We Were In Love four years ago, a collection of alternative and love songs. After that beautiful album was released, silence ensued. Mike took a hiatus from music and returned in 2022 with a complex message to his fans. He opened up about his mental health battle, revealing he was suicidal in 2021. But he found help and healing, and now he’s back with new music.
Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are a war many people face. And maybe this is another reason alternative music is essential; it gives artists a space to talk about the hard stuff. It makes fans feel less alone. The vulnerability found in alt-rock makes this genre so unique and necessary. It puts words around feelings and shines light into the darkness.
Mike Mains is back with songs to combat the darkness. Memory Unfixed is his latest release, riddled with joy and honesty.
Another artist giving a voice to mental health is Grace Graber. She has also walked through the darkness of depression and suicidal thoughts but came out on the other side to bring hope to those still in the thick of their mental health struggles. Using alternative rock as a platform, she’s conveying light to those in the dark. All because a rock song saved her life.
When Grace was ready to end it all, she heard rock band Hawk Nelson’s song, “Take Me.” God used that alternative rock song to save her, and from that moment on, Grace began dedicating her life to music. Bringing it all full circle, she collaborated with the very same artist who saved her from suicidal thoughts.
At the beginning of 2023, Grace released “This One’s for You,” featuring Hawk Nelson’s former lead singer, Jason Dunn. “Who knew that a song could change everything,” the chorus says. I would echo that: who knew that music could change so much?
I wouldn’t be who I am today without alternative music. This genre is a gift, and the artists who create these beautiful songs hold a special place in my heart. God used alternative rock to bring me through difficult seasons and challenges, and I know He can use this genre for so much more in the future.
I can’t think of a time when this many bands and artists were releasing alternative music. While it’s impossible to predict the future of the music industry, it’s refreshing to see alternative music on the rise after CCM and worship music have dominated the charts for so long. There’s no telling where this will go, but it’s leading somewhere. Music is a gift that can save lives, bring people closer to Jesus, and inspire creatives for generations to come.
To the artists releasing alternative music: keep going. No, your songs may not always land on Christian radio. Some might say they need to be better. But someone is out there waiting for your next song to be released. Someone is out there waiting for hope, longing for the poetry that only alternative music can bring.
To the fans: keep supporting these artists. Stream their songs, and buy their merchandise. Alternative rock music is on the rise, and they need people like you to help them on their journey. Something beautiful is rising, and I’m grateful that we, the fans, get a front-row seat to watch it unfold.
Who knew that a song could change everything?
Grace Chaves is NRT’s News Editor and one of our youngest writers. She’s been part of NewReleaseToday since 2019 and will continue her writing journey by majoring in Writing at Point Loma Nazarene Univerisity in the fall.